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Gavilan Peak Mandarin program students illustrating academic achievement, intellectual growth

Elizabeth Medora ~ Staff~ 5/6/2015

ANTHEM – Problem solving and critical thinking are some of the most important skills students can put into practice. The Gavilan Peak Mandarin program is helping to teach students these life skills.

Gavilan Peak School is completing its fifth year of free Mandarin education this school year; Mandarin partial immersion and basic Mandarin classes are free at Gavilan Peak. School staff reports that students of Mandarin have been showing high achievement across the academic field as they employ the skills they are learning in Mandarin classes.

“Students who are in the immersion program have developed outstanding problem solving skills,” noted Kimberly Cash, Lead Teacher/Mentor of the Mandarin Project Staff at Gavilan Peak. “When learning any new language, students have to be very focused on what the teacher is trying to convey to them; therefore, they must be able to think about the words, and make connections in order to understand the content.”

Cash reported that staff has tracked progress in math testing; results show that Mandarin program students either meet or exceed test scores of English-only students.

“Being able to problem solve carries over to other academic areas, as well,” Cash said.

Kevin Hoppe is the father of a third-grade Mandarin student. Hoppe’s son P.K. has been in the Mandarin program since kindergarten.

“My son’s growth has been immense,” Hoppe said.  He noted that P.K. has shown increased mental development and intellectual growth since joining the Mandarin program.

“Since he has been with the program, he has been participating in more cerebral endeavors and takes them head-on – such as chess and karate in addition to his rigorous homework regime with creative Mandarin games to support his learning,” Hoppe said. “He can spend hours working on these games that only enhance his understanding of the language.”

Jennifer Tapley reported additional benefits of the program for her daughter, who is a student at Gavilan Peak. 

“Along with the growth my daughter has made in the understanding and ability to speak Mandarin, I have seen tremendous growth in her cultural awareness,” Tapley said. “She understands and is interested in a variety of cultures, not just the Chinese culture. In a community like Anthem, where there is not much cultural diversity, this program has allowed her to be raised with cultural awareness that she would otherwise not be exposed to here.”

Tapley works for Gavilan Peak School as a Speech-Language Pathologist.

“Being a Speech-Language Pathologist, I understand the benefits that learning a second language at an early age has on brain development, as well as educational and career advantages,” Tapley noted.

In addition to Gavilan Peak, the Deer Valley Unified School District Mandarin program is taught at Diamond Canyon School, Boulder Creek High School, and Desert Sage Elementary. According to the Deer Valley Mandarin Web site, the mission of the DVUSD Mandarin program is “to create a world class, fully articulated Mandarin Chinese language curriculum from Pre-Kindergarten to the University which will enhance the future success of students in a global and technologically advanced society.”

Cash described the Mandarin program specific to Gavilan Peak.

“We have several programs offered at our school,” Cash said. “One is the Mandarin Partial immersion program. This is where students from K-5 are instructed in Mandarin for half of their day. The subjects taught in Mandarin are math, science, and the Mandarin language.”

Additionally, Gavilan Peak offers K-6 students a 45-minute daily basic Mandarin class. Mandarin exploratory class is offered for grades 7-8; this class teaches basic Mandarin characters and conversation.

“Our 8th grade students can choose to enroll in our Mandarin 1-2 class for high school credit,” Cash said.  “For students wishing to attend a university, two foreign languages classes are required for entry.”

For Hoppe, the benefits for his son cannot be matched in another school.

“We chose Gavilan Peak for my son because of this innovative Mandarin immersion program,” Hoppe said. “We did consider moving closer to our jobs, but this program kept us here in Deer Valley/North Valley. I have heard numerous stories of parents moving here from other states specifically for this program, as well.”

Hoppe described himself as “blown away” by his son’s academic confidence and poise.

“Just recently, he had to prepare a 10-minute speech and PowerPoint, all in Mandarin,” Hoppe said. “He spoke in front of a panel and a hundred parents so eloquently and confidently. This program is a true differentiator for our kids and a treasure for our region.”

Learn more about the DVUSD Mandarin program at www.dvmandarin.org. Gavilan Peak School is accepting open enrollments for the 2015-16 school year. For more details on open enrollment, visit gavilanpeak.dvusd.org or stop by the school, 2701 W. Memorial Dr. in Anthem.